People awaiting kickoff with spreads of food and drink greeted the Republican
One man called greeted Cramer by shouting, "You've got my vote" and "MAGA," the acronym for Trump's 2016 campaign slogan, "Make America Great Again," which supporters still use as a rallying cry.
Cramer waved, yelling back "MAGA!"
The three-term congressman and early Trump supporter has made loyalty to the president in a state that overwhelmingly supported him in 2016 the main selling point of his campaign to unseat Democratic Sen.
It's an argument that's putting Heitkamp in a bind as she emerges as a critical undecided vote on
Even before the Kavanaugh controversy, the
Heitkamp argues North Dakota voters don't want hyper-partisan lawmakers. She has supported many of Trump's
"It's important to send people to Washington who aren't going to just follow the herd, who aren't going to just take the step that someone tells them to take, and is going to stand and say, 'I don't know about that,'" Heitkamp told a group of seniors during a stop at a
Yet even as some
Trump and Cramer are something of a natural pairing. They both have a reputation for making the kind of unfiltered comments that can provoke outrage, particularly from liberals and other critics.
Earlier this year Cramer said farmers raising concerns about the trade war needed a "higher pain threshold." Last week he made headlines for his comments about Kavanaugh, who's been accused by
Cramer, who supports Kavanaugh, questioned during a local news interview whether the claim, if true, would be disqualifying because there wasn't "intercourse or anything like that."
Heitkamp criticized Cramer for the remarks, saying they diminished the severity of assault allegations. She has not announced how she will vote on Kavanaugh's confirmation but suggested last week she has concerns, saying there are many qualified lawyers who could do the job. A confirmation vote could be held this week.
The remarks, and the candidates' stances on Kavanaugh, got a mixed reception from voters.
"She needs to bring a female perspective to this," said Bancroft, who plans to vote for Heitkamp. "I want her to speak up and say this isn't ok."
But others don't have a problem with Cramer's comments — and even appreciate his straight talk.
"It doesn't bother me, because you know what? I'm not frickin' politically correct," said
"We know where he's coming from," she said.
Cramer said he "enjoyed every minute" of the latest brush-up over his comments, which he called another attempted "gotcha" from the Washington press corps.
"They make a folk hero out of me at home when they think they got me," he said. "I know how people here respond, I know how they think. Because I think like them. It's not like I calculate it out - let's see I gotta think more like a North Dakotan today - It is who I am."
Heitkamp has campaigned heavily on issues like health care, which she says comes up constantly as she speaks with voters. She supports the Affordable Care Act, particularly its protections for pre-existing conditions, and says she wants to fix what doesn't work while her opponent wants to get rid of it entirely. That could be devastating for rural health care, she says, a big issue in the predominantly rural state.
She also takes issue with Cramer's support for Trump's tariffs.
"He wants us to toughen up — why doesn't he toughen up?" Dickson said. "Where's his commitment to us?"
Tariffs were on farmer
"It is starting to really affect my bottom line and a lot of farmers' bottom line," he said.
But Gadberry said he's a conservative, and his concerns about trade aren't enough to turn his back on Cramer. The 58-year-old said Cramer's parents are about the same age as his own parents, and he trusts him on Medicare and
"I think Kevin's been better for North Dakota than Heidi," he said. "It's too bad we have to lose one of them."
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